Animal Restaurant, a great addition to the neighborhood
I'd been waiting to visit Animal, the restaurant that keeps vegetarians at bay. No kitschy, gooey gimmick there, thankfully. Instead you find a great neighborhood joint, friendly staff and chefs that bring market fresh food to table.
The menu, written in tiny handwriting, changes daily. Pork prevails here, although fish, beef and veggies are also available. The waiter strongly suggested that we order many appetizers to share like tapas. He said he would space out serving them, yet they all came at the same time. Our crowded table was quickly filled with a mélange of tastings.
Always a great way to start the meal, I loved dipping slices of toasted baguette in melted cheese. The meat on the pork ribs fell off the bone into my mouth. I would have been more satisfied with a sauce that had a punch to take the dish to the next level though. The raw white fish with peaches, pea tendrils and slices of chilies were a super summer combo. It would have been tastier with yellow tail.
The chefs certainly think about flavor combos and presentation. Laid back dudes, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo from the now defunct Food Network tv show "Food Dudes Catering", are Animal's owners. Their casual vibe mixed with their love for food permeates the place.
I liked how fois gras was served layered on pancakes. The multi-colored beet salad was well balanced: mild red and orange beets were mixed with tangy slices of Granny Smith apples. Two slices of smooth Manchego cheese created a roof that sheltered the dish. The desserts were best of all. Milk chocolate pudding served with cream top. Their signature bacon chocolate bar, a super rich combo of fatty bacon and milk chocolate; 2 bites was just enough to complete the meal.
2/2009 Update: Animal is a semi finalist for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.